If in doubt, rip it out (OK, not the best title…it should be “If it’s not working, do something about it”, but that’s too long)
One of the hardest things for me to do as a gardener is to get rid of an underperforming plant. I tend to let the plant piddle along, putting out a few leaves, flowers or fruit. I hope that something will make it “perk up,” all the while giving it water, fertilizer, compost. But I have learned that if a plant is underperforming it is:
- Not a good plant for the condition it is in- soil, sun, moisture, competition in the root zone, neighboring plants that are bad for it.
- Perhaps too fussy a plant, either for your conditions or just overall (like hybrid tea roses- I just will not grow them).
- Maybe diseased? Some diseases plant vigor and sometimes I cannot figure out what they have!
I try not to let plants linger (though there is a dicentra, or bleeding heart, I have right now that is puny, while its neighbor just a few feet away- same plant, same cultivar, planted in the same way at the same time- is much more vigorous and send out loads of blooms in season. I know I need to pull it out, and put something else there). Plants that are small for their variety, spindly, yellowing, and look bad make that area of your garden look bad, too.
Sometimes transplanting will do the trick. I had a sorry looking Japanese maple (from the $1 bin at a botanical garden plant sale) that did poorly in one area, but exploded in growth and beauty when I moved it to a more desirable location. I recently read about a gardener who, though they live in the same area I do, cannot get her fig to overwinter- that is probably a simple location problem (the fig needs to be on the south side of the property, near the house for those few extra degrees of winter protection and shelter from the wind-it makes a difference).
Another example is strawberries. Heritage strawberries just do not like my garden, but Honeoye do. I pulled out the whole bed of Heritage, replanted with Honeoye and they produced very well.
So, if the plant has consistently underperformed and you have tried everything you can think of, asked advice and given it time, it is time to say good bye. (Competitive rose growers will often lay a garden spade at the foot for a poorly growing rose bush and leave it there for a few weeks as a warning to the plant to get growing!)